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Rite effort has St. Mary's in another regional title game
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Playing in regional championship games is nothing new for the St. Mary’s girls’ basketball program. In fact, it has become a rite of passage.
The No. 4 Pirates thoroughly dominated No. 29 Estes Park 62-26 at home Friday night to advance to the school’s 10th 3A regional title game in 11 years.
St. Mary’s only led 13-9 after one quarter, but it got ugly after the first eight minutes. The Pirates used their full-court trapping defense to force turnovers and shoot layups. The lead was 27-15 at the half and ballooned to 47-20 after three quarters.
“This could have been a trap game, but Estes Park was 14-9 and they aren’t as bad of a team as the score made it look,” said St. Mary’s coach Mike Burkett, who has been at the helm for all nine previous regional championship games. “These girls are on a mission right now.”
There wasn’t a single spot on the stat sheet in which St. Mary’s didn’t have a large edge. The Pirates held a 33-16 rebound advantage, shot 15 more free throws and collected 12 steals and six blocks.
Nicole Niles led the home team with 16 points and eight rebounds, despite sitting for the entire fourth quarter with the rest of the starters.
“I think it was good for the starters to get some rest and it was great to see our bench go in there and pick it up where we left off,” Niles said. “I think throughout the years we’ve just been barely missing getting to state, but this year we’re tired of coming up short.”
This group of seniors – four of whom have been starting since they were sophomores – are looking for their first trip to the state quarterfinals. Gabi Florek, who had nine points and three assists, has been a mainstay at point guard for the past three seasons.
The senior class will play its last home game together Saturday, regardless of the outcome, when the Pirates host No. 13 Valley at 1 p.m.
“Valley is a good team, so we can’t get complacent,” Florek said. “If we play together like we did tonight we’ll have a good shot.”
After losing road games to fall short of the state quarterfinals the last two seasons, the Pirates will be in a friendly atmosphere on Saturday. Burkett thinks that bodes well for his team’s chances.
“If you look at the percentages and the odds, generally six or seven of the eight teams that host regionals advance to state,” he said. “It’s a big advantage to have that and we don’t plan to waste it.”